9 Top Cold-Weather Spring Break Vacation Ideas

Ditch the usual hot spots for an enticing alternative.

By Sarah Pike, ContributorFeb. 27, 2017
By Sarah Pike, ContributorFeb. 27, 2017, at 10:35 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

9 Top Cold-Weather Spring Break Vacation Ideas

A man skis down a mountain slope at sunrise.

From postcard-worthy ski retreats to cultural havens, these unexpected spring getaway appeal to a variety of interests and traveler types. (Getty Images)

When you think of spring break, chances are you imagine warm, sunny beaches, cerulean waters and plenty of R&R. But if you're looking for a high-value holiday that breaks away from the usual college crowds and party set, consider an alternative destination with plenty of culture and cold-weather splendors, from skiing to hiking to museum-hopping. Read on to discover nine unusual, yet worthwhile spring break ideas.

Bend, Oregon

Bend's Mount Bachelor certainly offers plenty of opportunities for spring skiing and snowboarding, but you can also enjoy snow tubing, dog slide rides and snowshoe tours. And when you're not playing in the snow, you can explore some of Bend's 20-plus breweries. What's more, the Mount Bachelor Village Resort offers a Kids Ski Free program, inviting kids ages 12 and under to ski the chance to ski for free with booking three-day (or longer) adult lift ticket in advance.

Lake of the Woods County, Minnesota

When a foot (or more) of ice covers one of Minnesota's nearly 12,000 lakes, it means ice-fishing season has arrived. Throughout the cooler months, there are several ice-fishing events where families can spend quality time out on the ice across Lake of the Woods Country, offering a perfect mid-school year getaway. Year after year, families and avid fishers alike congregate to Lake of the Woods seeking the perfect catch.

Southwest Montana

Southwest Montana is sprinkled with hot springs that offer a relaxing reprieve for winter-weary visitors. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, located between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, offers expansive outdoor pools for unwinding, as well as a waterslide for those who crave fast-paced thrills. Plus, there are plenty of special promotions for families and spa-seekers at the property for budget-minded visitors. And for those interested in a cost-effective camping trip, Norris Hot Springs, located in located in Madison Valley in Norris, Montana, is an eco-friendly gem that features artesian springs and utilizes its natural resources to produce meals made with local ingredients from the on-site garden and nearby farms. What's more, Norris Hot Springs hosts bluegrass bands weekly.

Sun Valley, Idaho

Whether you want to spend your days on the slopes or at the spa, Sun Valley Resort is the ideal destination to enjoy a wide range of action-packed and relaxing pursuits. With two mountains to choose from – Bald Mountain and Dollar Mountain – you can enjoy world-class skiing on more than 3,400 vertical feet and over 2,000 acres of varied terrain. And if you make it over to the nation's first ski resort, be sure to ask about their sleigh rides, which feature craft cocktails for an experience to remember.

Stowe, Vermont

Avid powder hounds gravitate to Stowe Mountain Lodge for its laid-back yet luxurious atmosphere mixed with the adventure of Vermont's Green Mountains. Whether you want to test your strength on a ropes course or soar through the trees on a zip line, Stowe has you covered. For guests who would rather relax and recharge, the Mountain Lodge offers a variety of unique wellness amenities and spa treatments, from full moon yoga to a soothing Vermont maple syrup and brown sugar scrub.

Taos, New Mexico

North-central New Mexico offers striking mountain scenery and wide open landscapes. Plus, Taos is a mecca for artists and culture vultures. The area is also home to a burgeoning foodie scene. During your visit, you'll want to check out pueblo life and culture at Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been continually inhabited for more than 1,000 years. A hot air balloon ride over the Rio Grande Gorge for a unique birds-eye view is also a must for springtime visitors.

Eden, Utah

Utah's Nordic Valley is famous for its ski schools, intermediate and advanced slopes and family-friendly atmosphere. Best known as one of the top downhill training ski areas for the 2002 Winter Olympics, the area is nestled deep in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains and is just a few miles from the restaurants and entertainment of Ogden, Utah. Nearby points of interest include Rockport and Willard Bay State Parks, Treehouse Children's Museum and the Alpine Art Center.

Carrabassett Valley, Maine

Nestled in western Maine, the town of Carrabassett Valley is home to the 4,000-foot Sugarloaf Mountain, a winter skiing destination and the southernmost trailhead on the Maine Huts and Trails' 80-mile network. Skip the beach crowds and get a much-needed reboot with a cozy backcountry winter adventure at Maine Huts and Trails. Four huts are connected by a series of groomed backcountry trails, offering access to lakes, rivers and forestlands that can only be seen by outdoor thrills such as hiking, biking and cross-country skiing.

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, California

The U.S. Ski Team makes Mammoth its annual spring training home and it's easy to see why. Along with its pristine powder and consistent snowfall, the area's California-cool vibes are another main draw. A typical day on the slopes at Mammoth Mountain starts early and ends around noon; visitors have the rest of the afternoon to relax, recharge and explore the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada to enjoy fishing, hiking, boating, biking and more recreational pursuits.

Sarah Pike, Contributor

Sarah Pike is a freelancer, adjunct professor and wanderlust sufferer. When she’s not writing, ...  Read more

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

Recommended

10 Amazing Montana Vacations

Breathtaking landscapes and year-round outdoor adventures will inspire you to visit Big Sky Country.

May 20, 2019

The 13 Best Savannah Tours

Experience real southern hospitality when visiting Savannah with these top tours.

John RodwanMay 16, 2019

The 15 Best Boston Tours

Get to know one of America's most historic cities with these tours.

Kim Foley MacKinnonMay 14, 2019

The 18 Best New Orleans Tours

With so much to see and do in New Orleans, these tours will help you maximize your time in the Big Easy.

Claire LawtonMay 10, 2019

The 7 Best Chicago Boat Tours

These low-key tours offer unique views of a city famed for its skyline.

Holly JohnsonMay 9, 2019

30 Cheap Weekend Getaways in the USA

From beach destinations to amusement parks, these vacations are perfect for an affordable and quick trip.

May 9, 2019

The 15 Best Chicago Tours

Foodies, boat enthusiasts and historians alike will appreciate any one of these tours of the Windy City.

John RodwanMay 8, 2019

16 Incredible Midwest Vacations

See which outstanding escapes showcase some of Middle America's top destinations.

April 29, 2019

The 21 Most Beautiful Waterfalls to See Around the World

Discover which stunning falls offer once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences.

April 25, 2019

The 20 Best Michigan State Parks

Two peninsulas, four Great Lakes and innumerable natural highlights elevate Michigan's state parks.

April 18, 2019